This article was written by Nils Metter ’17 of Ezra Stiles College.
Participants at the European Student Conference (ESC) at Yale — which brought together students from U.S. universities with leading Yale professors and European policy-makers Feb. 13–14 — crafted 22 concrete policy recommendations for the European Union (EU) and launched a new student think-tank, European Horizons.
Students discussed and refined their recommendations with policy-makers from the EU, including Pascal Lamy, Lapo Pistelli, Karel Schwarzenberg, Andrew Duff, Wolfgang Petritsch, and Erhard Busek, as well as other representatives of EU institutions, business and politics. These advisers also worked with students on how to utilize European Horizons to strengthen the debate and commitment to the EU at American universities.
In announcing the new think-tank, the steering committee said: “We set out to open up chapters at universities across the USA and will link students, scholars, and young professionals with one another in our ongoing endeavor to develop our visions for the future of the EU and its role in the world.”
The EU ambassador to the U.S., David O’Sullivan, commended the students on their efforts, and Tony Blair and Ulrike Lunacek sent video messages with greetings and ideas.
The 80 students hailed from 46 universities, including Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Princeton and Yale, as well as a special delegation from the College of Europe in Bruges, Belgium. The policy visions developed by the students form the basis for European Horizons and cover five broad topics: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), innovative economy in Europe, migration in the Mediterranean, democratic participation and creating European solidarity.
Some of the concrete proposals within the realm of these topics are:
- TTIP: establishing a common database on product information for transatlantic trade and a common carbon credit system in order for the EU and the United States to meet their sustainability objectives; agreeing on the highest common denominator principle for regulatory convergence under TTIP, including on labor standards; and facilitating the direct participation of national parliaments in the TTIP agreement to increase transparency.
- Democratic participation: giving European citizens a direct right of legislative initiative by reforming the European Citizens Initiative; and implementing a system of mixed member proportional representation for European Parliament elections.
- Innovative economy: amending insolvency laws to foster entrepreneurship and facilitating the creation of an SME-backed covered bond market; improving ICT skills though university and corporation partnerships.
- European identity: expanding Erasmus to pre-university and vocational contexts to strengthen a shared European identity; organizing a roundtable of European private media companies to promote Europe-wide and bilateral media offerings; and creating a research program that identifies the key features of the Social Market Economy, as this model could provide a narrative for EU citizens to rally around.
- Migration: designing temporary worker programs; encouraging member states to share best practices in terms of civics classes to improve the integration of immigrants in the EU; instituting a united refugee migration policy as well as annual migration quotas (a minimum in all member states) based on population and GDP; and harmonizing the list of safe countries of origin.
Yale student Melina Sanchez Montanes ’15, conference vice president and a native of Spain, stressed that, “for years, students at American universities have lost interest in the future of the EU.”
“Thankfully, the European Student Conference is not suffering from that problem. Over 350 students applied for only 80 spots in this first edition,” Sanchez Montanes said, “We are pleased to be advised by some of the most intellectual and articulate European thinkers. We are going to change Europe. We are the actors of today, and the leaders of tomorrow.”
“Europe is not just a peace project any longer,” said ESC president Igor Mitschka ’15, a Yale student from Austria who conceived the idea for the conference, “but rather our chance to construct a society with diversity instead of conformity, human rights instead of oppression, and a social market economy instead of a plutocracy.”
“The ideas of the European Student Conference all speak toward such a progressive society that could become a role model for regions around the world,” Mitschka emphasized in his closing remarks.
Mitschka finally urged all participants to join European Horizons in order to educate themselves and their communities on the future of the EU. “Let us follow the path of Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founding fathers,” he added.
“Jean Monnet used his personal experience in the United States of America to develop and actualize a bold vision for Europe,” Mitschka concluded, “Today, by founding European Horizons, we will do the same. We all have the potential to be the next Jean Monnets!”